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CT Readies for Shift in College Market

HARTFORD —  Many people think it’s difficult to go back to college. But it really isn’t, said Martin Estey, one of the many vendors at a recent college fair at the Hartford Public Library.

Estey is a program director at Career Beginnings, an agency that helps put high school students on the path to college. He was one of several representatives giving advice to prospective adult learners who are interested in completing requirements to attain a bachelor’s degree.

About half a million people in the state have some college credits but not enough to have received an associate or a bachelors degree. With the ongoing economic downturn, many residents are returning to college, a reflection of a national trend. Experts say the college market has recognized that more people are having fewer children and therefore shrinking the future college-ready pool.

Targeting adults is the future of the industry, said Sam Irizarry admissions officer at Charter Oak State College, an online college.

“With us it’s more of people who have at least nine credits and are thinking of going back to college,” Irizzary said. “Like anything else a lot of people start having family issues and stopped.”

That’s in part why the Metro Hartford Alliance organized the fair: they recognized a need.  The other reason was to help colleges collaborate and seek out funding to provide services for this growing market, said John Shemo, vice president and economic director of development at the Alliance.

Services would include workshops on financial aid, course load, and work/life balance, Shemo said. And to fund this, he will look to colleges to put in about $5,000 each and then seek funding from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Gov. Jodi Rell, also present to survey the fair, was briefed about the initiative’s funding campaign.

Although some services are already provided by college campus advisors and counselors, there is still a need for the information, said Harford resident and parent Michelle Walker, who was at the fair with her daughter.

“There ‘s some good information here,” Walker said. “They should also give [high school] students this kind of information too because some of them don’t know about these resources.”

Walker said she is not thinking about going back to college right now but is instead thinking about her daughter who is getting ready for college.

Like Walker, the few in attendance learned about the college fair when they entered the library and saw signs at the library’s entrances.

Shemo said the fair didn’t attract many traffic because it was an opportunity to get colleges working together.

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